Sales enablement has historically been treated as a marketing task. Marketing creates assets. Sales uses them to close deals.
But this creates a constant source of tension between the two teams.
Marketing gets upset when Sales goes off-message. Sales gets frustrated when they can’t find the most up-to-date version of a one-pager. Marketing has no way of knowing if their sales content resonates with customers.
The lesson: sales enablement can’t be treated as a peripheral marketing activity. It has to be a core part of your sales process with full buy-in from all your Revenue teams.
In this guide, we’ll explain what sales enablement is, what it isn’t, why it matters, and how to implement a strategy that will work long-term for your business.
What is sales enablement?
Sales enablement is a holistic system of research, processes, training, content, and tools that provides salespeople with the support they need to close deals consistently.
The goal of sales enablement is to simplify the complicated web of:
- Who your customers are and what they care about
- What your products do
- How you’re different from competitors
- What tools and processes are needed to sell
- What content your sales team needs to sell
- How to deliver timely, relevant content to your sales team and your prospects
Sales enablement is needed most often in complex selling and buying scenarios—typically larger-value B2B deals with lots of moving parts.
These are deals with many competitors, deep feature sets, many client stakeholders, and other complexities where both the seller and buyer need to be well-educated in the space.
Who is responsible for sales enablement?
Sales enablement can be a job, team, or distributed function across an organization.
There are different models for who owns sales enablement:
- Large companies may have a dedicated Sales Enablement team.
- In other companies, Product Marketing owns sales enablement.
- Sales teams may have a dedicated role, like a Sales Enablement Manager.
- In smaller organizations, sales enablement may be a shared responsibility across cross-functional revenue teams (e.g. Sales, Marketing, and RevOps).
In the absence of a Sales Enablement team, Product Marketing should be the main driver of your sales enablement strategy, as they’re already responsible for customer research, messaging, and product content.
How is sales enablement different from marketing?
Sales enablement is often confused with sales content.
People often use the term “sales enablement” to refer to case studies, one-sheeters, competitor battle cards, and other product-marketing content.
But content is only a subset of sales enablement. Sales enablement also includes training salespeople on new products, message testing, market research, and other supporting activities.
So sales enablement overlaps a lot with product marketing, only refers to the internal-facing components of a product marketing strategy.
Sales enablement vs. buyer enablement
As B2B buying becomes more complex, sales enablement is increasingly becoming about buyer enablement as well.
Buyer enablement is about taking a sales enablement approach to educating your customer—i.e. providing them with all the necessary content, processes, and tools to make an informed purchase.
They’re two sides of the same coin. Sales enablement makes it easier to sell. Buyer enablement makes it easier to buy.
What does sales enablement look like in practice?
Here’s a quick breakdown of the five pillars of sales enablement.
Research is the starting point of any sales enablement strategy. Sales enablement asks:
- Who are your customers? Identify the top customer profiles that sales teams can readily understand and use. You don't need every potential buyer persona. Focus on the ones with the most potential to convert. Customer personas will change as the marketplace morphs over time—always keep them in mind and tweak as you go.
- Where are your customers? Marketing teams will have a great sense of where those top customer personas tend to be, as well as their interests. Sharing this knowledge between Marketing and Sales is essential.
- What's the market doing? The marketplace is ever-changing which is why research is critical to sales enablement. Customer behaviors shift and competitors emerge over time.
The goal of sales enablement is to streamline the sales effort and the buyer journey—not to complicate it. Systems and processes are critical to that success.
Two example sales enablement processes are:
- Content delivery. Everyone who touches sales enablement (Product Marketing, Sales, designers, copywriters, etc.) needs to know the steps for approving materials, deliverable timelines, who owns what, and where to find content.
- Sales training. Sales teams should know to expect training at key points (e.g., after a product update), and Product Marketing should plan the training content and host sessions
Sales teams rely on understanding the product well to sell it. The Sales Enablement and/or Product Marketing teams should run ongoing sales and product training.
For example, you should host a training session every time you launch a new product or feature. There should also be regular training or office hours on competitors products, changes in the market, or new ICPs.
Creating and distributing content is a big component of sales enablement. There are two sides to sales enablement content:
There’s internal-facing sales enablement content, such as:
- Messaging briefs
- Internal training decks
- Competitor battlecards
- Pricing sheets
And then there’s the client-facing sales content, such as:
- Product one-sheeters
- Pitch decks
- White papers
- ROI case studies
- Customer testimonials and stories
- Press kits, and more
Finally, sales enablement is about using tools to deliver content and training to Sales.
These tools typically include:
- Learning management systems
- Revenue intelligence tools
- Content production tools
- Content management systems
- Buyer enablement tools
Why is sales enablement important?
When we talk about enabling sales, we're really talking about enabling people.
Let's look at the bigger picture as to how sales enablement helps your team close more deals.
Hiring, training, and growth
Effective and robust sales enablement programs go far to help prevent churn on your sales team.
When salespeople can grow within their role, and understand their part in the company's overall vision, success can feel more attainable. Wins become frequent, and people's confidence builds with each one.
If salespeople can develop their skill sets over time—provided they have the right tools, coaching, and training—achievement becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy for employees and the company as a whole. The easier it is to sell, the more driven and excited salespeople feel in their work.
Business growth depends on your people's growth.
Smoother product rollouts
Sales enablement helps bring new products to market by training reps not just once, but continually.
Sales teams need to easily understand:
- How to position the product
- How to use the product
- How to sell the product
- Why buyers care about the product
This is core to why Product Marketing teams need to work so closely with Sales teams.
Better cross-Revenue-team collaboration
Product Marketing, Sales, and RevOps teams need to work hand-in-hand as one Revenue team.
When product marketers embrace a sales enablement mindset, the Sales team will benefit in many ways:
- Buyer focus: Product marketing's strong emphasis on product positioning helps sales reps understand the customer's motivations, pain points, and specific decision-making factors—making their sales pitches more relevant to each buyer.
- Consistency: Ongoing educational and content support from product marketing helps salespeople stay consistent with messaging, sales enablement, follow-up processes, and collecting buyer feedback to share internally.
- Scalability: Salespeople tend to excel in one-on-one situations, while marketers are great at communicating one-to-many. Product Marketing can help Sales scale their one-on-one skills to a larger audience with training, content, and templates.
- Closing power: Increased buyer focus, consistent and relevant messaging, plus scalable content delivery all result in better close rates for sales.
Sales enablement strategy & best practices
Sales enablement is a marathon, not a sprint. It's both a practice and a corporate ethos that needs to evolve as the business grows. It's a living, breathing thing.
But what does an open, consistent sales enablement strategy look like in practice?
1. Establish feedback loops
Sales enablement comes down to effective communication between cross-functional teams. Here are some tactics to enable solid collaboration.
Host trainings and office hours
Product marketing should regularly initiate and host sales trainings for all products and feature updates. Sales teams should expect—and make time for—trainings when any new product is announced.
Product Marketing should also offer weekly office hours for sales reps to ask specific questions. Office hours allow sales to receive less formalized coaching and education—and signal a willingness to listen.
Regularly giving and receiving feedback strengthens team relationships and fosters dependability.
Promote close communication
Whether through dedicated Slack channels, emails, regular status meetings, or another method, Product Marketing and Sales need constant two-way communication about updates and customer feedback.
Establish a system and be sure everyone knows where and how to communicate about sales enablement.
Do cross-team message testing
Product Marketing can pair up with Sales to test out messaging with prospects and customers.
Pair the same PMM and sales rep to A/B message test over a few sales calls—one prospect gets messaging A, and another prospect gets messaging B.
Analyze the impact on sales. This might take additional testing if you have a long sales cycle. But if there’s a clear winner right away, don't hesitate to call it. Then use what you learn to iterate.
Note: Message testing depends on a close partnership between the marketer and seller. Test this out with more experienced team members who can stick to the agreed messaging.
2. Create scalable systems
The scalability of your sales enablement system is critical, especially as your organization grows with new hires, and as the buyers' needs shift.
Some things to nail down:
- When new sales content gets made, how will you get it in sales' hands?
- How can you make content discoverable to sales at the right moments?
- How do you communicate between teams and buyers in a trackable way?
For example, by using Dock, Product Marketing can systematize content delivery to Sales and buyers by:
- making content discoverable by organizing it into Boards and Collections
- building templated digital sales rooms that Sales can copy and personalize for each new prospect
- including synced content sections that get updated across all prospect workspaces
- pre-making hidden content sections for Sales to reveal to a customer at each stage of the sales cycle
3. Match sales enablement content to the sales cycle
Complex sales cycles require a lot of internal- and external-facing content.
If you're starting from scratch and don’t know where to prioritize your efforts, create content for each phase of the sales cycle, from awareness to consideration, to decision, to retention.
The larger your deal size, the more you should focus on bottom-funnel content. If you have a high volume of smaller deals, focus more on top- and mid-funnel content.
Ideally, as your sales enablement program matures, you should develop a set of all this content for each product and customer segment in your business.
If you already have a content library, map what currently exists to each sales cycle phase to identify the missing parts.
Remember that Product Marketing needs to update or replace content whenever a new product or feature launches (hence the need for scalable systems).
Tip: Your Sales team will know what questions or challenges typically come up in the buyer journey. Work with them directly to audit any content gaps.
Sales enablement content & the sales cycle
Let's drill down into what sales enablement content can look like when tailored to each phase of the sales cycle.
Top-of-funnel awareness content is typically used more for lead generation than sales, but it can still bring educational value to the buyer throughout the process. This includes content such as:
- Product/service website pages
- Blog posts
- Social media content
- Email campaigns
For example, your Sales team can share thought leadership blog posts or LinkedIn posts from your CEO with prospects to establish your company as an authority in your industry.
The consideration phase is where the sales cycle truly starts. The sales rep delivers this content alongside or just after a product demo or discovery call.
A buyer will often share or forward these materials to other stakeholders within their company. So any piece of consideration content should be able to stand on its own.
Consideration content includes:
- Product demo videos and explainers
- Pitch decks
- Sales proposals
- Pricing quotes
- Detailed product and service PDFs
- Customer case studies
- Buying guides or checklists
At this point, buyers are looking for technical details or business proof to make their decision. This content looks like:
- Mutual action plans
- Personalized demo recordings
- Solution architecture information
- Security, privacy, and other technical information
- Competitor comparisons
- ROI case studies (e.g. a Forrest report)
This is a lot of content to manage, so next let’s dive into how to manage this at scale.
Sales enablement tools and software
Sales enablement is still maturing as a field, so the tools on the market are still catching up to the needs of Revenue teams.
Here’s a quick review of the sales enablement software landscape.
The old guard: LMSs and CMSs
Traditional sales enablement software used to be about two things: sales training and content management.
Highspot, Seismic, and Showpad—the three most popular legacy platforms—are part LMS and part CMS.
They offer learning management systems (LMS) for building courses for sales teams to help them learn about the products or services that they're selling.
These LMSs have wiki functionality to create an internal "library" resource—which is great in theory, but it’s often disconnected from a company-wide wiki, creating silos between Sales and the rest of the organization.
So most companies ditch them in favor of a company-wide LMS, which isn’t created specifically for the needs of Sales and Revenue teams.
These tools also come with a sales content management system (CMS) that acts as a repository for sales enablement content.
Marketing typically uploads content to the sales CMS and then Sales teams pull content as needed.
But here’s the big challenge with these tools:
Sales often doesn’t know where to find the most up-to-date content. And Product Marketing doesn’t know when and if content is being used in the sales cycle, nor for which customer profile—both sides are often in the dark.
Newer versions of these tools have emerged to partially solve these challenges.
- For learning management, Workramp is a newer sales training tool that lets you create sales onboarding bootcamps, training programs, and learning centers
- For knowledge management, Guru is a popular choice, as its boards and collections make it more searchable than other tools.
The new challenger: Revenue enablement software
We’re building Dock to address the shortcomings of traditional sales enablement tools.
Our goal is to enable:
- Collaboration across revenue teams (between Sales, Marketing, RevOps, and Success)
- Collaboration between sellers and buyers (to simplify the buying process)
Because Dock focuses on enabling the entire revenue team to work as a cohesive unit, we’re calling it a revenue enablement platform.
Here’s how Dock solves the traditional challenges with sales enablement platforms:
1. Content management: Dock’s Content Management platform makes it easy for the Sales team to discover and share content that Marketing created—without needing internal wikis or messy Google Drive folders.
2. Content sharing: Anything uploaded to a Dock content library can be shared directly with clients as a link (rather than en email attachment). Or, you can share an asset through a Dock workspace (more on that below).
3. Content analytics: Marketing gets two layers of analytics on all your content. They can see which files are being accessed and used most often internally (by Sales). They also get analytics on how buyers are engaging with content.
4. Client workspaces: Marketing can create templated workspaces for clients that act as a digital sales room. Any type of content can be embedded, including PDFs, videos, spreadsheets, project plans, task lists, and more.
This gives Sales reps one place to share content with prospects instead of cluttering their inboxes with lots of attachments and email threads.
Dock also has other value-add features for Sales to simplify life for the buyer, like quotes and order forms, security profiles, and mutual action plans.
This new class of revenue enablement software does away with siloes between revenue teams and their customers.
Enable your entire Revenue team with Dock
You now have the basics of what sales enablement is, why it matters, and the kinds of tools that can help you implement a proper sales enablement strategy in your organization.
Remember that sales enablement is a journey, not a destination. It's an ongoing process of improvement that requires regular attention and care.
The more you invest in removing silos between your revenue teams, systems, and technology, the more you enable your teams to succeed.
Dock is free to try. You can sign up for 5 free customer workspaces here.